I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 International Dyslexia Association’s Reading, Literacy and Learning Conference at Mashantucket, Connecticut from 24th to 27th October at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. While the conference saw delegates from many parts of the world, most of them were from various parts of the United States. Despite the different nationalities, the attendees were largely made up of researchers, clinicians, parents, teachers, psychologists, educational therapists, and people with dyslexia.
The conference had numerous session types: a) standard presentations for 60 minutes – These were detailed information presented by either one or presenters on the same topic; b) extended presentations for 120 minutes – detailed and complex information or numerous applications presented by one or two presenters; c) panel discussions for 120 minutes – interactive forum discussions with three to four expert panellists and a moderator; d) poster presentations for 120 minutes – free-standing poster display boards where speakers present their information with an opportunity for maximum interaction with the audience; and d) exhibition of various resources, services and products.
One of the sessions I attended was the Assistive Technology in Education: A New Day for Students with Dyslexia by Martin and Topple. In this session, several applications were demonstrated for learners with various levels of needs of support of technology. While I was already quite aware of most of the tools shown in this session, I gained multiple perspectives on and uses of these tools. The session also prompted me to look into how some of these tools could benefit the dyslexic learners at DAS’ Main Literacy Programme and if the Main Literacy Programme EdTech Team should subscribe to some of them.
Another session that supplemented the earlier session was Assistive Technology: What the Research Says about Which Technologies Support Learners With Dyslexia by Shepardson. This age of technological wonders is capable of enabling the dyslexic individual to completely overcome the difficulties and perform as well as, or better than the typical learner. This session highlighted functions that are deemed necessary across applications and devices. Listed below are some of the functions.
The first function is spell-checking, which takes away the stress and time spent on correcting spelling errors and focus on ideas. The extrapolated versions of this function are the ability to check grammar too.
The second was Speech to Text and Text to Speech functions – as these help dyslexic learners to get around large chunks of texts easily and also support dyslexics who are are more auditory in their learning.
Lastly, another function required for dyslexics would be the customization features which allow users to change font styles, sizes and colours; change the background to contrasting colours and add colour filters to the screen/application.
Shepardson concluded that in his review of various literature, these functions have been strongly recommended to be built into devices and applications as basic functions, just as how the screen enlarging function (by “pinching” the screen outwardly or inwardly) is universally known and used by everyone – dyslexic or not.
Multimedia in the Classroom: Considerations for Students with Reading Disabilities is another session I attended which was targeted at educators largely. The speaker Kim walked the audience through the impact of multimedia and its importance, especially when learners need to be deeply engaged with multisensory inputs. Though one tends to often relate multimedia to videos solely, multimedia include audio clips, video, images, animations, use of colours, interactive features and links. Multimedia can be used to enhance the accessibility of the overall learning materials and environment. Multimedia elements were found having the potential to reduce or even remove the usual challenges faced by dyslexics. For example, learning materials, containing text, can be supplemented with and/or represented in graphical and auditory forms
The IDA 2018 conference got me thinking beyond the basics – such as applications and tools to help the dyslexic learner. It has been a very beneficial conference and I hope to put some of the gained knowledge into action through the MLP EdTech initiatives.